JERUSALEM – A large number of Palestinians took to the streets on Friday to protest the attendance of the Palestinian President at the state funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Many Palestinians consider that Peres, despite his international image as a peacemaker, was an enemy of Palestine and boosted the creation of settlements in the Occupied Territories.
That is why the presence of Mahmoud Abbas – current President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) – at the funeral generated such controversy.
“There’s infinite annoyance. This is humiliating. The general feeling among a majority of Palestinians, including leaders in (Abbas’) own party, Fatah, is one of frustration,” a Palestinian official who asked to remain anonymous told EFE.
The source said that “Palestinians have always understood when it was necessary to meet with the Israelis. (Former PNA President Yasser) Arafat did it all the time.”
“But Peres is a symbol of Israeli impunity and never even apologized for what he did. (Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin apologized, but Peres never did,” the official added.
On the other hand, a spokesman for Fatah – the governing party in the West Bank – said in a statement that Abbas’ presence at the funeral was “a Palestinian message of peace to the world.”
“Attending the funeral is part of our president’s responsibilities,” veteran Fatah leader Munir al-Yaghoub said in the statement.
“His presence has forced (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu to stop describing Palestinians as terrorists,” he added.
However, not all Palestinians shared Fatah’s official point of view.
Siab, a 30-year-old Palestinian cab driver from Jerusalem, told EFE he was “outraged” that Abbas had made the trip to bid farewell to the late Israeli statesman.
“If he had come to demand the establishment of a free Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, we would understand, but paying tribute to a murderer is not worthy of our respect,” he said.
According to the unnamed Palestinian official, “Peres’ figure is more rejected by Palestinians than many right-wing politicians, simply because of his hypocrisy.”
He explained that this was because Peres “talked about peace in the West while supporting the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land.”
Thabit Abu al-Ros, a 38-year-old resident of Ramallah, said about Peres’ passing that he hoped that “once the criminal’s dead, the crimes will end.”
Another Ramallahn, 36-year-old Ismael Ziade, said that it was “very sad to see all the world leaders who call for democracy and humanity attend the funeral of a murderer.”
Ziade accused Peres of ordering the 1996 massacre of 106 civilians in Qana (southern Lebanon), building a nuclear reactor, stealing land and forcefully displacing the Palestinian people.
Shafika Mansour, a 20-year-old journalist, said she did not care about Peres’ death, since he was unable to reach peace between Israel and Palestine.
This indifference was expressed in a similar vein by 19-year-old Asil al-Saslehi.
“Dead or alive, he committed many crimes against the Palestinian people, so I don’t care about his death,” al-Saslehi said.
Inside the Gaza Strip, residents also showed their contempt for Peres’ legacy.
Hussein Abu Jabal said that “despite calling for peace and being a moderate leader, it is known that (Peres) killed many Palestinians.”
Hussam al-Suk, a 24-year-old Gazan, said that “Abbas needs to go to Hell along with Peres.”
“If not, he at least needs to apologize to all Palestinians, especially the families of the martyrs murdered by Peres and other Israelis,” he added.
According to Fawzi Barhum, a spokesman for the radical Islamist movement Hamas – which controls the Gaza Strip and has been virulently opposed to Fatah in the past decade – Abbas’ presence at Friday’s funeral constituted “a humiliating, despicable act and a huge disgrace.”
Sweeping criticism of Abbas also spread quickly through social media, with various memes and photo montages ridiculing him and accusing him of being a traitor to his people.
Ali Abunimah, the co-founder of digital outlet Electronic Intifada, said he was infuriated by Abbas’ visit to Jerusalem.
“How can Palestinians, whose struggle embodies dignity, produce somebody as abject and lacking in self-respect as Mahmoud Abbas?” he asked.
“Abbas solemnly observes while the same Israeli Army continues its crimes against his people,” Abunimah tweeted during the ceremony as Israeli soldiers lowered Peres’ coffin into the grave.
East Jerusalem resident Mohammed told EFE that Friday was a “day of mourning” for Palestinians, not because of Peres’ death, but because of the “humiliation” caused by Abbas’ presence at the funeral.